People are always asking, “What’s new on IG?” or “What’s the future of IG?”, “What should I be doing to grow on IG?” We can answer ALL those questions with one word: STORIES. That’s right. Instagram Stories are not only big today, but their power and importance is gaining and predicted to be increasingly important in the days ahead. What does this mean for you? And how can you best use this feature to grow your feed and influence? We’ve got all the ins and outs, from why, what and how to share to the technical details to get you rocking your Instagram stories.
What are Instagram Stories?
Instagram Stories is Instagram’s disappearing content feature, which allows users to share photos and videos in a slideshow format that last 24 hours. Separate from users’ carefully curated galleries, it is as a place for more raw, real-time sharing. Stories are similar to Snapchat and offer filters, text, drawing, stickers, tags, and other features for added creativity.
Why are Instagram Stories So Important?
- Video is the future. Plain and simple.
- People want to be entertained. Video captures people’s attention and holds it!
- Instagram wants to see an engaged audience. Stories build relationships and therefore commitment and engagement.
- The algorithm factors in story views, which increases your overall value on Instagram.
- Stories add another dimension to your feed, another dimension to you!
What Should You Share?
Stories are the perfect place to add more value, and give people more reasons to follow you. This is your chance to give your followers more than pictures & words. This is your bonus forum to inspire, teach and showcase what you do and who you are.
- Show your personality
- Life in progress, as long as there is something interesting/worthwhile
- How-to videos & tutorials
- Showcase other talents
- Make people laugh
- Show real life or behind the scenes
- Sponsor brands in a personal, meaningful way
- Share the love and feature others
- Give shoutouts to followers or your hashtag users
- Answer questions from your feed
- Invite people to ask questions, create dialog
- Ask followers what they want to see more of
- Advertise your company, brand, blog, products
- Sell products you love
- Make announcements
- Offer special promotions/coupons to reward loyal viewers
- Provide a “call to action”
What if I’m camera shy?
You will get used to it.
So I understand there are plenty of people who don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera. Guess what? In the beginning Jodie and I were quite nervous too. But you get used to it…Now it feels like we are talking to our friends, which WE ARE! 🙂
Practice makes better.
I would say practice makes perfect, but you don’t have to be perfect. In fact, the more real you are the better your stories will be. If people wanted professional they’d turn on the tv. Even on tv the reality shows are taking over! Why? People want real and relatable. So stop worrying and have fun.
While it’s great to get ideas from watching others, don’t try to make your stories like any else’s. Just be yourself.
If you are nervous begin by taking baby steps. Begin by facing the camera away from you and just narrate your stories. Once you’re comfortable with that be brave and turn the camera around. Jodie and I like to mix it up. Half the time we share decor, projects or our view and the other half we talk to the camera. We don’t really think about it too much. We let it all unfold organically (and sometimes based on how good our hair is looking 🙂 )
Important Tips for Better Stories
Tell a story.
If you want people to stay interested and engaged treat your stories like a mini movie. Because your stories will present like a slide show or movie, one after another, try to make it flow together and really tell a story.
Get Follower Feedback.
This is the perfect place to start a conversation. You are doing double duty here. Feedback from followers is invaluable and at the same time you are building a bridge as you engage your audience. Nothing builds relationships more than conversation. Relationships create the strongest (read most loyal) followers!!
People want to be entertained. Be witting, fun, silly, creative! Show your personality. Let them fall in love with the real you!
Besides entertainment share something of value. Teach your followers something. Give them tips, inspiration, how-to, advice…some take away.
Provide a Call To Action.
You’ve worked hard to create engaging content. Now that you’ve got your followers’ attention what do you want to do with it? Give them a call to action. Send them to your business page, your blog, your shop, whatever it is you want to create.
The Technical Side
Maybe what’s holding you back from fully embracing Instagram Stories is the technical aspects. Once again, be brave. Remember when Instagram itself was a mystery? And look at you now! You can do this too! The cool part is you can learn the many features of your stories bit by bit. You can stay basic at first and when you feel ready slowly add “skills” to your stories repertoire. A great resource to learn about all the capabilities is provided HERE
Our advice is understand the capabilities so you can know what is possible, and then you can decide what is important to you. Here is an overview summary. Note that new features are being added all the time.
- Live story feature…create a live video. Let it end or press save to have it viewable for full 24 hours
- Still photos which show like slides for 5 seconds or videos. Access any photo or video taken in last 24 hours. Want to show an older shot? I just screen-shot which is then time stamped and recognized as recent. There are apps to help as well, Slack & WhatsApp both do this.
- Hands-free 15-second video option
- Boomerang video option
- Add music to your videos
- Show older videos or tie together 15-second bits of video by using an app called CutStory
- Add Text, adjust color, alignment, size. Create text boxes, use multiple colors, etc.
- Add stickers, location, temperature, day, time stamp, selfie
- Tag people
- Link a website (if you are a verified account or have a business account of over 10K followers) This is currently being tested by IG and could become available for everyone…not yet announced.
- Draw feature, 3 styles of pen, with adjustable width of pen, and color choice
- Face filter options. Jodie’s and my favorite is the last one in the slide that simply lights up your face! Like adding beautiful highlighter to the shadows of your face. Love!
Using Stories Strategically
Jodie and I love stories, for all the reasons listed above and more.
Here are some of the ways we currently use stories:
- to interact with our followers
- to make people smile, laugh, hopefully brighten their day
- share products we love
- advertise for companies who sponsor us
- tell people about new blog posts
- share a project or DIY we are working on
- hashtag feature sharing
- giveaway or other promotional reminders
- share home decor restyling
- show behind the scenes
- occasionally share other talents, like our violin playing
- and more!
One of the reasons we LOVE stories is they allow us the ability to accomplish things we can’t on our galleries. We protect our feeds and try to keep them as aesthetically pleasing as we can. We share a photo of ourselves maybe twice a year, keeping our feeds nearly exclusively home decor. Stories provide a place where we can do all the things we don’t want to do on our galleries…and so much more.
How often should I create stories?
Every day. Want people to be committed to you? Show you are committed to them. Be consistent. Do you want your followers to look forward to connecting with you daily? Do you want them to make YOU part of their day? Of course you do! Then that’s your answer. Create stories every day. Show your commitment to your followers, your commitment to IG. Help your followers create a deep connection to you and your brand. A habit is something you do every day. Help your followers make you their “habit”.
Not yet using stories? Think it’s just not for you?
Let us change your minds.
If you are on IG for fun and kicks then you can use stories for added fun! But, if you are an influencer or hoping to become one, or you’re on Instagram for business of any kind and you’re not yet using stories, it is like leaving money on the table. It’s like being half in the game. And all signs point to this becoming only more true in the future. It’s another example of success going to those who are willing to evolve with the times. Whether you are new to stories or just getting ready to take the plunge we hope this post will help you optimize the power of Instagram Stories and take your engagement (and your account) to the next level!
Ready to take your Instagram to the next level? Be sure to read our many other Instagram related blog posts and sign up to receive our blog newsletter so you never miss a post!
Also, we love to hear from you. Please leave a comment so we know if this post helped or other topics you are hoping to hear about.
With love and gratitude,
The Design Twins, Julie & Jodie